Presidential Race Takes Shape and Offers Hints of Things to Come

NYT FDMaggie Haberman 7/10/2015

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Good Friday morning from Washington, where Congress took up the debate over the Confederate battle flag and where former President Jimmy Carter can still draw a crowd in the rain. While the summer election cycle has seemed to be mostly about adding a new candidate every few days, this week offered a look at some story lines that are bound to endure.

The presidential race, slow-forming for much of the year, sprang clearly to life this week with disparate events that could play a role in deciding the Republican nominee and the contours of the general election.

In one sphere is Donald J. Trump, the bombastic real estate developer and television personality. Skepticism remains about whether he’ll stay in the presidential race through the fall, but he appears to be laser-focused on making it into the primary debates next month. And he is dominating the discussion in the Republican Party.

The slow reaction from party figures to his caustic remarks about Mexicans has again highlighted divisions over an immigration overhaul, two years after Republicans criticized Mitt Romney’s tone on the issue in 2012.

Mr. Trump’s remarks are already being used by Hillary Rodham Clinton to tar the Republican field, including Jeb Bush, the one party candidate who has long made overhauling immigration a cause.

Separately, Mrs. Clinton and her allies have pounced on a comment from Mr. Bush about people needing to “work longer hours” to improve the economy. The Clinton team has said the comment defines him as a clone of Mr. Romney, who was lampooned as out of touch by President Obama in the 2012 race.

Mr. Bush is certain to hear about that statement for weeks, but Mrs. Clinton’s campaign is signaling clearly that they see him as the likeliest nominee. And he will be able to make that point to Republicans to try to galvanize support in a crowded field.

Finally, the economic turbulence in Greece and in Puerto Rico is a familiar pocket of uncertainty as the United States recovers from the Great Recession and moves toward a national election.